Epilepsy Talk

Don’t let a “distracted doctor” kill you! | April 7, 2022

Do you know what happens during surgery?


Maybe some background music. Hip if the doctor likes that. Or classical.

Well, not exactly.

You might be surprised. Or horrified to learn the truth.

How about your technician who’s running the bypass machine texting during the procedure…

Or the nurse checking airfares…

And your neurosurgeon chatting away on a personal phone call?

That’s right. Electronic devices have not only taken over our culture. They’ve taken over the operating room!

While some medical schools are teaching would-be doctors to use electronic devices – hopefully for diagnostic purposes – other medical staff prefer to check eBay.

Various high-profile cases have illustrated the deadly effects that doctor distraction can have.

The most famous case happened in Texas where a woman died after her oxygen levels fell during surgery. The anesthesiologist, who failed to notice the issue for 20 minutes, was accused of emailing and texting during the procedure.

In 2014, comedian Joan Rivers passed away due to complications during a minor throat surgery. During the operation, one doctor took cell phone photos of the comedian. Investigators didn’t find that this behavior directly caused the complications, but it may have contributed to the final outcome.

In another case, a resident began using her phone to enter an order to discontinue an inpatient’s blood-thinner order. In the middle of doing that, the resident was distracted by a text message from a friend asking about plans for an upcoming party.

She never finished entering the order, and the patient later required open-heart surgery to remove blood filling the sac around his heart.

It’s a problem. And an epidemic.

One might say that technology rules. In this age and era, doctors are almost born with cell phones in their hands. Texting, talking, searching, researching, buying, selling, planning and so on. They’re also expected to be available 24/7.

That’s part of the problem. And, in part, that explains “distracted doctoring”.

While distraction is particularly concerning in the operating room, emergency room, and critical care areas, it can impact all healthcare settings — including the office practice.

Personal electronic devices can create a digital distraction so engrossing that it consumes awareness, potentially preventing healthcare providers from focusing on the primary task at hand — caring for and interacting with patients.

The consequences can be devastating.

Attending to a patient’s complex care needs is a high-risk activity that requires undivided attention presence in the moment to ensure the safety and protection of others.

The patient is in the doctor’s hands. Literally and figuratively.

They have put their faith and trust into the medical professional’s experience and expertise. Hands that may hold the power of life or death.

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  1. Wow, Hospitals need to mandate no personal electronics in the operating rooms.

    During my brain tumor removal, there were multiple surgeons in the operating room. Not sure if that is common, but if one surgeon has a problem hopefully between them they can figure it out. But that was 15 yrs ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Zolt — April 7, 2022 @ 11:13 AM

  2. Multiple surgeons in the OR sounds like a good idea. Sort of like “damage control”.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — April 7, 2022 @ 11:16 AM

    • A patient should always not just know the name but meet the surgeon and anesthesiologist who will be involved in their surgery. Write their names and give to your family. Google the procedure days before your appointment with the surgeon so you can have your questions answered.

      Liked by 1 person

      Comment by juniorsplaceofhope — June 3, 2022 @ 12:00 PM

  3. They also should not be using their personal phone for work use. Unless its an absolute emergency or the healthcare workers are on a break, they should not be allowed to use their personal phone while they’re at work.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Gwen — April 8, 2022 @ 4:40 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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